Greenmantle wedding photo by Catherine Cattanach

Greenmantle wedding photo by Catherine Cattanach

As beautiful as a marquee can be, there are definite challenges to be considered and things that can be done to take them from being a real problem to being about them most stunning space for a celebration. Many couples think that going it alone and having a marquee wedding is a budget-friendly, easy option. But this isn’t always the case. Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved – not only in the planning but the actual set up as well. It’s a much greater challenge than a hotel or wedding venue because you have to organise everything from scratch, with no professional to guide you along the way.

Once you’ve decided on the type of marquee you want, and where it is going to be erected, then you can start to look at some of the things you can do to improve it. A short while ago I had the pleasure of entertaining at a marquee wedding where everything had been very, very well thought out. Read more about that day HERE (opens in new window).

Think about the site of the reception as some traditional marquees cannot go on hard surfaces like courtyards or tennis courts due to the guy ropes needing to be pegged into the ground so you’ll probably need a frame marquee. Will you want windows and doors or completely open on one side? Do you have to option to easily open the marquee if it’s too hot, or close it in if it is windy, wet or cold?

You need to think about parking for guests and your wedding/event suppliers. If parking is in a nearby field then provide a solid walkway for guests in case it is uneven or has been raining. Walking across a sodden field or gravel in heels is not much fun. Ensure there is good signage so people know where to park and the route back to the car is well lit. The same goes for the path to the rest rooms.

With a large number of guests attending your event or celebration you will need to organise some mobile toilets. I recommend asking to see pictures as there are some nice contemporary ones available now. Check the capacity is suitable for the number of guests attending and what power it requires.

While I’m talking about power, there have been countless occasions I’ve seen where the power running from the house has not been sufficient to run the lighting, toilets, DJ or band, catering (cooking, refrigeration and coffee station). Check with all suppliers how much power they need to ensure you hire the right size generator. Give some thought to who will run all the cabling for you and ensure that everything is laid down safely. Make sure you arrange for the main marquee lighting to be on a dimmer for later.

Whenever hiring suppliers that will arrive in larger vehicles, think about the access available to them. A classic mistake is only measuring the width of vehicles but not thinking about the swing needed – this is especially true of mobile toilets and generators. If access is narrow and deliveries have to be scheduled in, make sure suppliers know the relevant time slot they can deliver and explain any difficulties with the access available.

Check with your caterers what size catering marquee they need to service your wedding proficiently. Ensure your caterers have access to fresh water, this can be simply an extendable hose into the catering tent. Also don’t forget that you will need lighting for the catering areas, possibly both inside and outside as well. I’ve lost count of the number of times the caterer has been trying to operate an outside spit roast or barbecue with just a few candles or head-worn torch as the exterior lighting has been forgotten.

I can’t overemphasise what a difference a decent fitted floor makes to the feel, functionality and look of a marquee. It’s an additional expense that is definitely worth looking into, as it not only finishes the marquee off, it’s easier to move your chair when you’re seated, it’s safer to walk on, better for the expensive high-heel shoes and gives you a level surface that’s softer than concrete. Some of my pictures below show just how nice this can look.

Your entertainer or lighting company will need to supply LED lighting probably, as it runs cool unlike traditional lighting, and so reduces the fire and damage hazard to the marquee outer skin and inner silk lining. Modern LED uplights can be used to paint the marquee with colour, perhaps matching the wedding theme colours earlier, then into full splashes of colour later for the dancing.